Has your significant other ever shared a challenge they were having? Was your initial response to completely open up your heart and listen to what they were telling you, or did the hamster in your brain instantly jump on its wheel as you tried to devise a way to fix it? More often than not, we want to fix it when they want us to feel it. And that’s probably because it’s much harder to feel than to fix. One way to know for sure is to ask your better half, “Do you want me to fix it or feel it?”
Fixing involves action, motion, volume, and speed.
Feeling involves patience, stillness, questions, and pace.
In many ways, they are complete opposites. But if all we did was try to provide a solution or try to fix the problem, we’d miss out on a deeper connection.
Sometimes we have a contradiction of belief. It’s both a theological issue and a personal one. On the one hand, we believe in God’s goodness. On the other hand, we read the news.
We try to solve this contradiction intellectually with logic and reason. But the psalmist doesn’t attempt to solve it intellectually. Instead, he uses emotions and prayer called LAMENT.
And we seem to have 3 prayer modes:
We mostly hang out in the help me prayers, but the Psalms of lament spend very little time asking for help.
So far, the majority of this prayer isn’t asking for anything. What it’s doing is lamenting. It’s a detailed description of what’s happening to us and how we feel about it.
We don’t lament very well because we make assumptions. When hardship comes, we tend to make these 3 assumptions:
And this Psalm has precisely the opposite approach. The assumption in this prayer is that God knows exactly what to do. He doesn’t need help there. Most of this prayer is spent describing how we perceive what's happening to us and how it affects our emotions.
This is the nature of Biblical lament. It assumes that what God is most interested in is not our take on a solution, but rather how we process and describe our experience.
This is vivid and graphic. We don't do this well because we would rather fix it, but we don't want to feel it. But that’s what the Psalms of lament do. They invite us to dive deep into how life is making us feel.
And so, the invitation before us is not to deny how we feel or assume God already knows. It's to embrace lament, describe and explain how we feel to the God who designed us, and accept how we feel. And sit in those feelings.
But there’s another thing David does with lament. He protests.
When we hear the word protest, we might think marches on authority buildings that can be peaceful or violent, usually for political or social reasons. But the word protest simply means a public expression of objection.
Ever hear about the letter from an airline passenger who sat in 29E?
I am disgusted as I write this note to you about the miserable experience, I am having sitting in seat 29E on one of your aircrafts. As you may know, this seat is situated directly across from the lavatory, so close that I can reach out my left arm and touch the door.
All my senses are being tortured simultaneously. It’s difficult to say what the worst part about sitting in 29E really is? Is it the stench of the sanitation fluid that’s blown all over my body every 60 seconds when the door opens? Is it the wooosh of the constant flushing?
I constructed a stink-shield by shoving one end of a blanket into the overhead compartment — while effective in blocking at least some of the smell and offering a small bit of privacy… the next “bottom” that touches my shoulder will be the last.”
I am picturing a board room, full of executives giving props to the young promising engineer that figured out how to squeeze an additional row of seats onto this plane by putting them next to the LAV.
I would like to flush his head in the toilet that I am close enough to touch, and taste from my seat. Worse yet, is I’ve paid over $400.00 for the honor of sitting in this seat! Does your company give refunds? I am filled with a deep hatred for your plane designer and a general dis-ease that may last for hours.
We are finally descending, and soon I will be able to tear down the stink-shield, but the scars will remain. I suggest that you initiate immediate removal of this seat from all of your crafts.
What is this entire letter aimed at doing? Removing the seat.
But everything else in the letter is aimed at describing the experience. Now, the passenger could’ve simply wrote, “I had a terrible flight, and you need to get rid of the seat next to the bathroom.” But without the detailed descriptions, we wouldn’t feel it.
So, the first part is lament, to describe how we feel. But the second part is to protest, to depict the circumstances so that we feel the depth of the situation.
The role of protest is to paint a picture of just how bad things are and it does two things:
When we share our grief, suffering, and pain with God, we can embrace the fullness of our humanity and experience it through lament and protest. But then, it allows God to move and work in our lives.
If we did this more often, we would see God working in new, more powerful ways because our solutions wouldn't limit him.
Notice the shift here. The lament and protest turn to praise. It’s unknown what David’s situation was, but at some point, he experienced relief from his suffering and declared that deliverance to the assembly.
But notice the place he’s praising from; it’s his lament. He’s praising God from a posture of pain and suffering. One of the things we do a lot in our lives is compartmentalize. We put things in different buckets. We do it with faith too.
We put praise on one side when things are good and lament on one side when we’re suffering. Because we think the fix to lament is worship.
It denies our emotions if we put on a happy face and pretend we aren’t in pain. That’s trying to fix something without feeling it. And that robs us of emotional depth and honesty with ourselves and God.
We can worship from places of lament, and what we get within that is a more honest, transparent form of worship that offers our frustrations, fears, anger, concerns, and pain at the feet of Jesus.
And what’s so amazing about Jesus and lament is He is with us in our lament. He says, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Yet. He also understands our pain because He entered into it as we do.
Scripture says that Jesus understands our weaknesses because he faced the same things we did. Jesus understands lament so much that when He was on the cross, He utters the first verse of this Psalm, “My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”
Our laments become a form of worship or an embodied form of crying out to God. One where we simultaneously embrace our emotions in lament, our difficult situations through protest, and our awe and love for God in worship.
So, what are we supposed to do?
But remember, acknowledging our pain without anchoring our lament to Jesus is complaining, and anchoring ourselves to Jesus without acknowledging our suffering is gaslighting ourselves.
And when we do both, we pour out our hearts to God from a place of hurt, pain, and suffering. And in doing so, lament becomes a pathway to God.
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